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(c) 2015 MBARI
(c) 2015 MBARI

Inside the Mysterious Hydrothermal Vents Found Deep Below the Gulf of California

(c) 2015 MBARI
(c) 2015 MBARI

This spring, scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) discovered a field of ocean vents spewing super-heated water into the bottom of the ocean between Baja California and the rest of Mexico. There are plenty of these hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of North and Central America, stretching from Canada down to Costa Rica, but this one is different. For one thing, at 12,500 feet below the surface, the Pescadero Basin vents are the deepest. And its structure is one never seen in the northern hemisphere. 

Most hydrothermal vents in North America are volcanic in origin and are found on top of basalt rock. Known as black smokers, they shoot out dark, mineral-rich water. These newly-discovered towering vent chimneys, though, are white, and are made up of calcium carbonate, formed when super-hot water (as high as 554 degrees Fahrenheit) emerged from the sea floor and mixed with frigid ocean water. Unlike the basalt vents, they emit clear hot water rather than black smokey liquidThis is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on the bottom of the ocean,” Robert C. Vrijenhoek, a senior scientist and biologist at MBARI, tells mental_floss

The odd vents also feature unusual marine life rare to other locales. They’re covered in organisms, especially tubeworms of the genus Oasisia. “They cover the carbonate chimneys top to bottom, as high as 30 meters [98 feet],” Vrijenhoek says. “It’s like a garden of red flowers. It’s incredible.” 

Vrijenhoek and his colleagues are still classifying the exact species present at the Pescadero Basin vents.  Though found elsewhere in the world, the tubeworms, clams, squat lobsters, and other life that cling to the vents appear in larger numbers in the Pescadero Basin than have been observed elsewhere, while common vent animals like riftia tubeworms are rare, for reasons the scientists cannot yet fully explain. “This unique depth and chemistry has favored a subset of species that might not be common elsewhere,” Vrijenhoek says. 

However, they do have some clues. “We think this deep basin [the vents are] located in doesn’t have an ocean crust layer,” hypothesizes marine geologist Dave Clague, a senior scientist at MBARI who led the project. “It’s essentially mantle rock that’s exposed,” he guesses. There are similar crust-less spots in the Indian Ocean and the mid-Atlantic, but this would be the first spot where the mantle is covered by hydrothermal vents and, of course, the resulting towers upon towers of tubeworms.  

[h/t: National Geographic]

All images (c) 2015 MBARI

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Chefs Launch World's Highest Pop-Up Restaurant at Mt. Everest Base Camp
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A touch of altitude sickness shouldn't stand in the way of a good meal. At least that seems to be the idea behind a plan to serve a seven-course dinner to trekkers at Everest Base Camp, the gateway for those planning to climb Mt. Everest in Nepal.

The four chefs leading this trip hope it will land them a new Guinness World Record for the highest pop-up restaurant on the planet, according to Architectural Digest. At the end of May, the chefs will take 10 people on an eight-day trek from the town of Lukla (at an altitude of about 10,000 feet) to Everest Base Camp (at 11,600 feet), all while foraging along the way for ingredients that can be incorporated into the meal. (For a true luxury experience, guests also have the option of traveling by helicopter.) The full package of flights, accommodations, and meals costs about $5600 per person.

After reaching their destination, trekkers will get to sit back and enjoy a feast, which will be served inside a tent to protect diners against the harsh Himalayan winds. Indian chef Sanjay Thakur and others on his team say they want to highlight the importance of sustainability, and the money they raise will be donated to local charities. Thakur said most of the food will be cooked sous vide, which allows vacuum-packed food to be cooked in water over a long period of time.

"The biggest challenge, of course, will be the altitude, which will affect everything," Thakur tells Fine Dining Lovers. "Flavor [perception] will be decreased, so we will be designing a menu of extraordinary dishes accordingly, where spices will have the upper hand."

This isn't the first time an elaborate meal will be served at Everest Base Camp, though. According to Fine Dining Lovers, another chef launched a pop-up at the same spot in 2016, but it presumably wasn't registered with the Guinness Book of World Records. Other extreme restaurants include one carved into a limestone cliff in China, one dangling 16 feet above the ground in a rainforest in Thailand, and one submerged 16 feet below sea level in the Maldives.

[h/t Architectural Digest]

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Health
Watch a Tree Release a Massive "Pollen Bomb" Into the Air
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In case your itchy, watery eyes hadn't already tipped you off, spring is in the air. Some trees release up to a billion pollen grains apiece each year, and instead of turning into baby trees, many of those spores end up in the noses of allergy sufferers. For a visual of just how much pollen is being released into our backyards, check out the video below spotted by Gothamist.

This footage was captured by Millville, New Jersey resident Jennifer Henderson while her husband was clearing away brush with a backhoe. He noticed one tree was blanketed in pollen, and decided to bump into it to see what would happen. The result was an explosion of plant matter dramatic enough to make you sniffle just by looking at it.

"Pollen bombs" occur when the weather starts to warm up after a prolonged winter, prompting trees and grasses to suddenly release a high concentration of pollen in a short time span. Wind, temperature, and humidity levels all determine the air's pollen count for any given day, but allergy season settles down around May.

After determining that your congestion is the result of allergies and not a head cold, there are a few steps you can take to stave off symptoms before they appear. Keep track of your area's pollen report throughout the week, and treat yourself with antihistamines or nasal spray on days when you know it will be particularly bad outside. You can also keep your home a pollen-free zone by closing all the windows and investing in an air purifier. Check out our full list of seasonal allergy-fighting tips here.

[h/t Gothamist]

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